The boisterous crowd cheered, some lifting their phones above their heads recording the action, some lifting themselves up onto chairs to get a vantage point. All the attention was on the stage, where a girl in a Deadpool costume was dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat it’.
In the courtyard outside, Eben, Gary, and Charles, three Shillong boys, mingled with the crowd. Today, they were dressed as the DC Comics’ nocturnal treble – Batman, Robin, and Nightwing.
Tucked amidst imposing public offices and adjacent to the iconic All Saints Church, a unique party was unfolding in the heart of Meghalaya’s capital. A celebration of the growing popularity of cosplay, the second Shangri-La Festival was being organized by Empyre Concord and NeoTakus in collaboration with Metropolis Asia.
Most of the participants were in their teens and early twenties. Some competed in the official cosplay competition while many others showed up just to share their hard work and creativity. Young Lal Dousel braved the warm day in a leather jacket, a touch of face makeup and an elaborately designed machine gun canon – yes, the Terminator was in town. “It took me a week to design my costume and accessories,” he mentioned, accompanied by his friends. Ameda, another cosplayer, explains her avatar for the day – a character from the anime, ‘Another’. “I like Mei Misaki because it is a character I can relate to,” she says.
A judge at the event, Reuben, has also been cosplaying for 5 years. “Such events and activity are very good for the youth. It gives them an opportunity to be creative. Cosplaying also helps people learn about recycling”.
With gaming providing many inspirations, a PUBG representative was inevitable. Shillong resident Merang Lemtur loves his games and comics and showed up in complete combat regalia, straight out of the immensely popular ‘multiplayer battle royale’ game. There were also some old favourites in the crowd. Rodrick and Sukkynjai came as Captain Haddock and Velma respectively, the charming duo adding some retro flair to an already-colourful gathering.
After two rounds of performances, the winner of the event was Malsawmi Tara (Aizawl), who came as the DC comics character Katana. The two runners-up were Vanlalahmachhuana Zote (Aizawl) who came as the Invoker from DotA and Saphira Pathaw, as Deadpool. Next, Malsawmi gets to compete at a national level preliminary cosplay event which can be a chance to participate at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan next year.
With the popularity of anime, comics and role-playing games only getting stronger, cosplay is becoming another increasingly recognizable subculture of the region. Arwanki is one of the members of NeoTakus and was cosplaying as Clockwerk from DotA. He shares his vision – “I look forward to having events more often, have people up their game so as to go neck to neck with international players. We need to have more players from the Northeast to represent us on the global stage, as it has been done before.”
With the enthusiasm that was evident at the Shangri-La Festival, it is pretty safe to say that these words are not just wishful thinking.